Koh Samui is an island off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus, located 35 kilometres off coast, northeast of Surat Thani town. ‘Koh’ refers to island while the name ‘Samui’ itself is a mystery.
Interestingly, Samui alone attracts over 1.5 million tourists annually.White sandy beaches and delicious food may be some of the common things that you would expect when visiting Thailand, but Koh Samui is unique in its own way.
It is not a proper vacation without souvenir shopping, so when we first arrived in Samui, I headed to the centre of Chaweng, which offered so many items and wares. Just like the other parts of Thailand, you can find vendors selling pirated CDs and DVDs (which by right you’re not supposed to buy), imitation of high end brands from glasses to handbags (be sure that the high end brand is spelt correctly), including mouth-watering delicacies. Every 50 metres, you will find a foot massage shop offering various kinds of massages starting from 300 Baht (10 USD).
To get to Chaweng, it is recommended that you take a taxi – better if you stay near Chaweng so that you could easily get there on foot as it gets busy after dark. You can also rent a motorbike but remember that under Thai law you must always wear a helmet. Visitors can also find fun and exotic nightlife in Chaweng since this is where naughty bars and clubs are located.
‘Moulin Rouge’ is one of the places that you might want to check out as it is a bar that entertains visitors with cabaret shows performed by ravishing drag queens. Thailand is also known for the beauty of its transvestites, so gentlemen, you better watch out.
I still remember vividly, days before I left for Koh Samui, the rest of Gaya Travel team members kept on reminding me to visit a place called ‘Hin Ta Hin Yai’. When I asked them what it was, they responded with laughter and giggles. They did not exactly explain anything to me, so I was curious to find out what it was.
When in Samui, I took a trip to ‘Hin Ta Hin Yai’ the next morning, still wondering what triggered the giggles. I was surprised when I got there: ‘Hin Ta Hin Yai’ actually means ‘Grandfather Stone and Grandmother Stone’, unusually shaped rocks naturally formed by the sea. Both rocks, each are just a few metres away from each other, respectively looked like male and female genital parts and are now famous tourist attractions – now I knew what the giggles were all about.
What is the point of visiting Koh Samui if not to enjoy its white sandy beaches and swim in its green emerald waters? After ‘Hin Ta Hin Yai’, I headed to Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan, two islands that are very near to each other, reachable by speed boat from the Grand Sea Pier. There are packages being offered that include taking visitors around the islands with activities for a whole day, with the prices starting from 2100 Baht, which is around 70 USD. Koh Nang Yuan and Koh Tao are both beautiful islands with its own set of uniqueness.
It took me an hour and a half to arrive to Koh Nang Yuan, but the beauty of the island was really captivating; the beautiful weather further enhanced the island’s scenery. The main activities at Koh Nang Yuan are mainly snorkelling and sunbathing. There is also an observation point that you can climb up to. Though the heat could be overwhelming, the climb was all worth it when you reach the point. Here, you can see the sunrise and the sunset at the same place over the ever beautiful blue sea, a breath taking sight that could make you fall in love head over heels with this island.
Before arriving at the two islands, it is advisable for visitors not to bring any form of plastic as it would ruin their pristine. In Koh Nang Yuan, you can enjoy yourself with numerous blissful activities the island offers: you can experience international dive training, paddle kayak around the island, enjoy the massages and go on snorkeling tours. Snorkeling had so far been one of my favorite activities here.
Travelling to Koh Tao is a 15-minute journey via speed boat from Koh Nang Yuan. Although it is not as large as Koh Nang Yuan, it is also a perfect spot for snorkelling. After putting on a life jacket and snorkelling gears in a matter of seconds (due to over-excitement), I was ready to plunge in the water and swim in the blue sea.
I enjoyed myself witnessing all types of fishes such as clownfish swimming all around (Nemo wasn’t there but I was still very happy), including beautifully preserved coral reefs. It is compulsory for anyone to put their life jackets on while snorkelling for safety. The island is also a quiet place with only a restaurant, dive shop, beach bar and a small humble and quaint resort.
Both Koh Nang Yuan and Koh Tao are perfect for lazing around to soak in their serenity, especially during sunset. The perfect description for the experience on both islands is susmmarised in an apt phrase that the tourists from Italy once taught me: ‘Dolce Far Niente’, which means ‘The Beauty of Doing Nothing’.
Just when you think that mummies can only be found in Egypt, I was also surprised to find that Thailand also has a mummy, which is the form of a mummified Buddhist monk. The monk, known as Loung Por Daeng, was born in 1894 and dedicated all his life to become a devout Buddhist monk. He was ordained as a monk in his early twenties and spent the next two years in Samret Temple before exiting and got married.
When reached fifty years of age and that his children had grown up, Loung Por Daeng decided to dedicate the latter part of his life to Buddhism and returned to the temples where he felt at peace. He was ordained again as a monk in 1944. He requested to remain at the Kunaram Temple before he died so as to inspire future generations to follow the Buddhist teachings and be saved from suffering. His body is still here, in the Kunaram Temple, sitting in a meditating position for almost 40 years.
When his eyes began to dislodge from their sockets, the monks at the temple fitted him with sunglasses. For those who want to visit the mummified monk, visitors can do so at the Kunaram Temple. Unlike Phuket, Koh Samui offers a different experience. The island’s natural beauty and welcoming hospitality of its people make the destination memorable. Don’t be afraid to fall in love with Koh Samui. Visitors should enjoy every single moment whilst being there because Koh Samui is totally unlike other ordinary Thai island.